How We Work with Children
Escuela Viva was developed with two main goals in mind. The first is to provide an enriching environment that supports the spiritual, academic and humanistic needs of our children. The second is to support the development of both English and Spanish language skills. As our program is a dual language program, children will be taught in their native language while providing more and more opportunities to hear a second language (Spanish or English).
Early childhood education, like all education, is a “dynamic process”. Through our approach, inspired by the work in Reggio Emilia and that of J. Donald Walters (author of “Education for Life”), we go beyond the basic “academics”. We teach our children to become active and attentive learners. We do not expect children to “sit still and learn”. Rather, they are engaged as active participants in the learning process. In many cases, this occurs through multi-faceted projects that require the mastery and integration of a variety of different skills (see our article on Big Body Play to read more about how we support children’s learning).
Without compromising the fundamentals, we take a holistic approach to education that enables children to grow towards full maturity. This includes helping children understand how their bodies work, how their emotions affect their behavior, and how to focus their energy in such a way as to enhance learning.
The guiding principles of Escuela Viva are:
- Love and respect permeate every aspect of our school community.
- Children are competent active learners.
- Children, parents, teachers, and the environment are partners in the learning process.
- Children are celebrated and empowered when their learning is made visible.
- Children have an amazing capacity to learn language.
The overall goal is that our children grow to understand how to live the best possible life filled with joy and happiness. As an added bonus we incorporate Spanish language learning into our school day. This is done as our teachers share with the students their love for the Spanish language in conversation and interactions throughout the day. We welcome the opportunity to share our philosophy with you and your children.
Our Approach to Spanish
Our philosophy related to second language acquisition is that children will develop a love for language and become a partner in learning. Nothing can be more frightening than to start your academic career and not understand what your teachers are saying to you. Immersion works well….it just isn’t how we approach this learning. There are plenty of moments in your child’s life where they will feel pressure to learn. That isn’t how we approach any learning at Escuela Viva. We will make the learning, albeit Spanish, a new dance/song, or how to be a contributing member of their classroom, an experience they will carry for a life time. A time where they were allowed to learn at their pace, their interests were valued, and they felt competent in mind and body.
The Early Childhood Movement
Since Escuela Viva’s birth in July of 2004, the hope has been that we would be part of a group of educators leading the movement to professionalize early childhood education. At the heart of this desire lies the understanding that all children deserve a quality education. Additionally, no one will argue that many children, especially those from disadvantaged homes, start their educational career ill-prepared to learn. As a social worker working in the field of child abuse prevention I was surprised to learn that early childhood education is one of the key prevention strategies to prevent child abuse. Upon further research found that early childhood education is one of the key prevention strategies for many of our communities largest challenges including:
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Teen and adult crime
- Violence prevention
- High school drop out
- Teen pregnancy
It would only make sense that more of our community resources would go to fund early childhood programs. Sadly this is not the case. In our efforts to be taken seriously we, Escuela Viva, have undertaken a series of endeavors to ensure that we will be taken seriously. The first step we undertook was moving into one space to house all of our programs and allow us the space necessary to grow one of our newest and most in demand programs, the infant and toddler program. We undertook this step and with time it is slowly becoming one of our biggest assets. The next step we undertook was the Oregon Program’s of Quality. We created a very large portfolio to demonstrate that we are in fact a program of quality serving children ages 5 and under. Lastly, the step that we work on every day is nourishing our partnership with our parent community. Each of these steps is intimately intertwined; with no one aspect more important than the other. What is important to understand is that not one of these steps is complete; how could they be when understanding the developmental needs of children and their families is so dynamic? We won’t ever be complete in our quest for improving our environment, nurturing our partnership with our parent community and most of all enhancing the quality of our program.
My hope, as the founder and director of Escuela Viva, is that in sharing this vision it will be more clear why we, the Escuela Viva staff, have been working so diligently on the Oregon Program’s of Quality and eventually our accreditation with the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC); that you will understand why the training of our staff is so critical. This includes more in-service days for staff to have time to prepare classroom curriculum and the classroom environment. At that heart of all of our work is our partnership with the parent community; when we can all agree on this mission and work together, we can make a statement to our community that early childhood education is of value.
As the founder and director of the school, my commitment in this endeavor is to find the financial means to compensate all staff at a rate comparable to public school educators, work to create an infrastructure, with the assistance of the administrative staff, to allow teachers the time and support to be inspired in their work, and be politically active to enhance the early childhood education movement. Yet, to be truly successful it will require a staff and parent partnership that embraces this mission and a willingness to put forth the necessary efforts to demonstrate that the early childhood profession is not only of value but that the outcome of such a mission far outweighs the costs.
Parents As Partners
In order to be effective teachers we must have consistency between home and school. We offer a variety of means for achieving this goal; open communication, parent-teacher conferences, emails, parent’s meetings, newsletters, and planning committees. We value your input. Parents are key to the success of Escuela Viva. Without your support and commitment we could never achieve our maximum potential.